Clare lost to Cork by 11 points in the Munster semi-final but hit back in spirited fashion to send Leinster finalists Meath crashing out of the All-Ireland series. And it was Carroll who sealed Clare’s passage to the quarter-finals with 55 seconds left.
A tie that was level six times looked destined for extra-time but Carroll, despite being off-balance, fired over the winner to clinch a surprise win.
Meath finished the game with 14 players when Jenny Rispin was sin-binned in the closing minutes. They were over-reliant on captain Katie O’Brien for scores as the St Ultans player finished with 1-7.
O’Brien also levelled the scores at 1-10 apiece with two minutes remaining but that was her sole score of the second half.
Meath managed just three points in entire second period, despite playing with the aid of a stiff breeze. But when midfielder Shauna Bennett popped over a 32nd point, Meath were two clear.
Clare’s response was impressive, however, and a run of four unanswered points – including two from impressive forward Niamh O’Dea – sent the Banner County into a 1-10 to 1-8 lead.
Meath hit back with scores from Mahon and O’Brien but there was a late sting in the tail as Carroll fired over the priceless winner for the 2009 All-Ireland intermediate champions.
Meath, with O’Brien landing 1-6, led at half-time, 1-7 to 1-6, but had to overturn a four-point deficit to establish that slender interval lead.
In a half that was level four times, it was wind-assisted Clare who struck the first real decisive blow in the 12th minute when Ailish Considine’s defence-splitting pass found Maria Kelly through on goal, and the West Clare Gaels player made no mistake with a low finish.
Niamh O’Dea tagged on a point and Clare were 1-4 to 0-3 clear but Meath were on terms at 1-5 apiece five minutes before half-time.
The goalscorer was O’Brien, who collected a pass from midfielder Shauna Bennett, dodged a defender and cracked home a rising drove to the roof of the Clare net.
That strike midway through the half breathed fresh life into the Leinster runners-up and it was O’Brien who was pulling the strings.
Looking like they would go on to secure victory in the second half Meath failed to push on and when Carroll struck, it was too late to turn things around.
Scorers for Clare: N O’Dea 0-5 (2fs), M Kelly 1-1, A Considine 0-3 (1f), N Carroll 0-2.
Scorers for Meath: K O’Brien 1-7 (0-3fs), S Bennett 0-2, F Mahon 0-1.
CLARE: E O’Driscoll; S Kelly, L Kelly, L Ryan; R Looney, L Henchy, M Delaney; M Considine, F Lafferty; N Carroll, N Keane, M Kelly; N Lardner, N O’Dea, A Considine.
Sub: S Harvey for Lardner (ht).
MEATH: I Munnelly; O Byrne, A Murray, O Sheridan; E Troy, E Rahill, H Regan; S Bennett, F Mahon; M Sheridan, K O’Brien, J Rispin; V McCormack, A Thompson, B Lynch.
Subs: M Peel for Regan (21), L Dempsey for Thompson (42), J Byrne for Lynch (43), G Doherty for McCormack (55).
Referee: S Joy (Kerry).